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May 23, 2014

Kentucky State Police to help with Knox 911 calls

KNOX COUNTY — News raced across Knox County Thursday that the county’s 911 Dispatch office was no longer accepting calls and that all emergency calls had been rerouted to Kentucky State Police Post 10 dispatchers.

But that “news” isn’t quite true.

Knox County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Derek Eubanks explained that in an effort to make the transition for the new incoming sheriff easier, KSP Post 10 agreed to take on cases in the county that would likely require an extended investigation.

KSP Post 10 did not, however, agree to take on all the county’s 911 calls — and that was verified by Post 10 Public Information Officer Trooper Shane Jacobs.

“The Knox County Sheriff’s Office did contact us (Wednesday) about assisting them with some of their 911 calls,” Jacobs explained. “We will assist them with cases that would take time to work, like a big burglary, a major criminal investigation, or a serious injury collision.”

However, 911 stays in the county.

“The 911 center remains in Barbourville,” Jacobs said. “We (at KSP Post 10) have not taken all the (911) calls — we’ve not agreed to that. (There is) funding for 911.”

He said the sheriff’s office will call and ask for assistance on those cases requiring the added investigation — that’s the agreement.

“However, they’re to remain with those 911 calls (made to the county dispatch),” Jacobs said. “We’re here to serve the people of Knox County and we’re happy to assist them — but we’re not taking over 911.”

Eubanks agreed, and said the sheriff’s office “will try to work as many of the investigations as we can, but KSP will help take the load off,” while the transition process begins.

Eubanks explained that after Sheriff John Pickard lost the primary race Tuesday, the decision was made to request KSP’s assistance in order for the sheriff’s office to try to resolve as many of its cases before Dec. 31 — the end of Pickard’s term.

And while who may conduct investigations based on 911 calls made could be a little different — the way citizens make those emergency calls has not, Eubanks said.

“We’re trying this to see what is best for the citizens,” Eubanks said. “There are a bunch of cases we’ve got to clear out by the end of the year.”

He said dispatchers receive 15, 20 and sometimes as many as 25 calls a day, often resulting in an ever-increasing caseload requiring further investigation.

Eubanks explained “it’s hard to work on potential new cases and get any of the (current) cases closed.”

A potential issue to compound that problem during the rest of the year is employee retention. “If we start losing deputies — if they start seeking and gaining employment elsewhere — that could make (the transition) harder,” Eubanks said. “It’s not right for us to open new cases, and then in January (the deputies) are not here.

“It’s not fair to the citizens and we don’t want that either — the county is still covered (by 911 service),” he continued. “We’re still here — we’re still working.”

He added that if the sheriff’s office’s caseload “gets caught up,” then the Knox Dispatch could resume picking up the county’s full caseload.

“We just do not want open cases for citizens that can’t get done — and I don’t think it’s right for the citizens either,” Eubanks said.

He said the change began Wednesday — that’s when they “started trying it out.”

“We talked with the (KSP Post 10 Commander) and there were no issues — they understand the case load,” Eubanks said. “But with the caseload, we’ve still got court to take care of and all our other duties — there’s no ‘downtime’ to work on these cases and get them closed if we’re continuously opening up new cases when we get slammed with 15, 20 or 25 calls a day.”

Eubanks explained that when the sheriff’s office responds to these calls, not only do they handle the immediate emergency, but “we have to do a whole lot of work that goes with it.”

“It is a job — I loved it or I wouldn’t’ve done it.”

He said Pickard and the sheriff’s office wants “to be ready to hand this over” to a new administration. Pickard lost the Republican Primary election Tuesday to Mike Smith, who also defeated Darrell Bright to clinch the Republican nod. Smith runs against Democratic contender Kyle Campbell in the November general election.

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